The Resurrection

Luke 24.1-12

The women have a front row seat to the miraculous events of that first Easter morning. Though all hope seemed lost…the Hero was dead…God was not finished yet. God’s the Author of this Story, and I love when God tells the story…because when God tells the story, there’s always hope. An astounding twist to the plot…the Hero is alive. Death is conquered. Sin is atoned for. The way is made available for us to return back to God. Death is swallowed up in life, despair in hope, mourning in astounding joy. Jesus is risen! He is risen indeed!

The resurrection proves that Jesus is the Hero He claimed to be and that everything He said is true…His death satisfied God’s just punishment for sin, and He is able to raise us to new life, to give us eternal life. And as He promised, Jesus will be with us always, even unto the end of the age. So no matter how much the world may shake around us…whether it’s natural disasters or the wickedness of men…God is able to bring life out of death, hope out of despair, victory out of sure defeat.

In this life, there will be suffering. Guaranteed. Some of that suffering is due to our own bad choices, some of it to other’s bad choices, and some of it because we live in a fallen world. Every death is a tragedy because every death is a reminder of our rebellion against God…a rebellion that broke the good world He made…a rebellion that could only be atoned for by the death of His own Son, so that while physically these bodies will die, we have the hope of new bodies that won’t…we have the hope of an eternity spent with our Hero, delighting in our Triune God, in a place where there is no more pain or sorrow, no more tears or death. Perfect peace, joy and bliss…reigning with our King forever.

The question isn’t whether or not these bodies will give out…they will…we will die someday. Death is one for one. It’s an appointment we all must keep. The question is: will we be ready when that time comes? And when it comes, Jesus will either be Savior or Judge. Which will it be for you? Life is short. Death is sure. The only hope we have is in Jesus.

Do you know Jesus as Savior today? If you have not yet trusted in Him, today can be the day of salvation for you. You simply have to recognize your need to be rescued…that you are a sinner in need of repentance. You have to believe that Jesus can rescue you…that He can save you from your sin, that He died in your place. And then you have to trust Him to save you. When you do that, the Bible says that you are adopted into God’s family…you become a son or daughter of the King of the Universe, spending an eternity with Him in the kingdom.

Maybe you are a believer, but, like the women or the disciples, the circumstances of life have caused you to lose hope. You’re living as if Jesus is still in the tomb. Maybe you need to be reminded today that Jesus is alive, and He wants you to experience resurrection life…the abundant life that He saved you for. Now’s a good time to rededicate your life to following Him.

The resurrection changes everything! Jesus makes all the difference. He brings purpose and meaning, real hope and change. Eternal life that starts today and never ends.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

The Blind Man Sees

Luke 18.31-43

The disciples are blinded to the need for Jesus to suffer even though He’s warned them on numerous occasions, predicting both His death and resurrection. The blind man sees that Jesus is much more than a prophet or miracle-worker from Nazareth…He’s the long-awaited Jewish Messiah, the Son of David and promised King who brings the kingdom.

Suffering is a reality for every believer. Some suffering is the result of living in a broken world…the blind man’s physical blindness. It’s the kind of suffering that everyone who walks the planet will experience at some point and to some degree. It’s the consequences of the curse that affects all creation. But some suffering is the result of following Jesus…the crowd’s attempt to silence the blind man. That kind of suffering is unique to believers. It’s the price of our rebellion against the god of this world. What’s the blind man’s response in both cases? He cries out to the King…“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” When suffering comes, whether it’s suffering from persecution or suffering because we live in a fallen world, our response should be the same, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” It’s a cry, not only for relief in the present circumstance, but it also represents our longing for one of the days of the Son of Man…our desire for the kingdom.

The blind man is a sharp contrast to the rich ruler we talked about a few weeks back. The rich ruler appeared to have everything…wealth, independence, status, power, possessions…yet he left Jesus lacking the one thing he truly desired…the kingdom. The blind man appears to have nothing…poor, dependent, powerless, having nothing…yet he receives from Jesus not only his sight, but also the kingdom. Stuff can be a trap both for the believer and the unbeliever…a snare that blinds us to our need for Jesus. As believers, it can be subtle. At one point, we recognized our need for Jesus to rescue us. But as time passes, it’s easy to become less needy…to replace our confidence in Him with our confidence in our job or our relationships or our status or our stuff or whatever. When crisis strikes…sickness, loss, relational fallout…we are quick to call out to Him, but when things are going well, we don’t need Him so much. But we never outgrow our need for Jesus. Only He can save. Only He can truly satisfy the longing of our souls. Only He can rescue us and bring us into the kingdom. If that’s you, ask the Father to rekindle that sense of daily dependence on Him. If you have not yet trusted in Him, make today the day. Don’t be like the rich man who “had it all” as far as this world goes, but had nothing of eternal value. Recognize your need for repentance. Believe that Jesus can save you, and trust Him to do so. Then you too can “see” like the blind man.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Suffering Before Glory

Luke 9.28-45

When we began the Luke series last fall, one of the things we talked about…what Luke wanted us to do as we read through his Gospel…is to examine the evidence so that we might be able to answer the question, “Who is Jesus?”

We’ve come a long ways since then, and no doubt we still have a ways to go. Now we’ve reached a pivotal point in Luke’s story. Last week Peter rightly answered our question for us…“Who is Jesus?” He is the Christ of God. But what does that mean? The disciples thought that they knew what it meant…a Conquering King bringing in a glorious kingdom. The overthrow of Rome and Israel once again in a place of prominence on the world stage. And while Isaiah talked about a Suffering Servant and there were hints of adversity to come (Genesis 3.15), still Jewish folks living in the 1st century were expecting a fierce Warrior-Messiah like David.

While there were plenty of OT prophesies to justify their expectations, there were also personal reasons why folks would want a Conquering King…we all want to be on the winning side. Their expectations weren’t wrong, just mistimed. Jesus will come back as Conquering King. Everyone who is on His side will win with Him. But first He would be the Suffering Servant. Suffering before glory.

I think sometimes we have a similar timing problem. We like the glory part. We like the kingdom part. But we don’t like the suffering part. And if we are honest with ourselves, many times we do anything we can to avoid it. We want to follow Jesus without cost or consequence. And yet the constant testimony of Jesus and the rest of the NT is that suffering is a fundamental part of the Christian life. But the good news is…we are never alone in suffering for Jesus. Somehow Paul says that we can experience the perfect peace of God in the midst of chaos, joy in the midst of pain, hope in the deepest darkness. We don’t have to give up or give in because Jesus wins. And we have a heavenly Father who delights in us and desires our good, who loves us so completely that we will spend an eternity trying to comprehend it.

Sometimes ours isn’t a timing problem, but a “Who is Jesus?” problem. We are looking for a Jesus who meets our expectations. We want Jesus to rescue us from our sins, but we don’t want Him to change us too much. We want Him to heal us or fix our marriage or solve our financial problems…we want Him to be Savior in lots of ways, but we don’t really want to listen to Him. We don’t want His words sinking into our ears. We don’t want Him to be Lord of our lives. We want Him to make much of us…we don’t want to make much of Him.

But Jesus is both Savior and Lord. He is Suffering Servant and Conquering King. He is both Lamb and Lion.

Maybe today is the day that you need to let Jesus’ words sink into your ears. Maybe today is the day that you need to see Him in all His glory as both Suffering Servant and Conquering King. Maybe today is the day that you need to recommit to following Jesus, no matter what the cost. Maybe today is the day that you need to be reminded that suffering comes before glory.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we be willing to follow Jesus in both the good and the hard times this week.”

This post is based on a sermon from our Luke series, Live & Love Like Jesus. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Our Reclaimed Hope

Daniel 12

What a ride! Fourteen weeks in the book of Daniel. Terrifying visions, steadfast faith, incredible courage, uncompromising commitment, a new chapter. The rules have changed during the Time of the Gentiles. Where doing the right thing once brought blessing, it now brings a curse (ex. fiery furnace and lions’  den). Conforming to the surrounding culture brings comfort. Good is called evil, and evil good. Right and wrong are a matter of public opinion. Following God will not be easy, but for those with insight and the courage to persevere, their inheritance is secure. As the divine messenger says, “Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” In the midst of a world seemingly out of control, Daniel is reminded (and reminds us) that God is still in control… “For wisdom and power belong to Him. It is He who changes the times and the ages; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding. It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, And the light dwells with Him.” So don’t give up, don’t give in…God wins.

The first six chapters of Daniel are story…the adventures of Daniel and his three friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah in the kingdoms of Babylon and Persia. Daniel receives his first two visions while Belshazzar is king…still under the dominion of the first beast, Babylon. He receives these visions before the “handwriting on the wall” of Daniel 5. Daniel’s prayer and the last two visions are during the time of Darius/Cyrus. Why is that important? Because Daniel’s experience in the lions’ den (Daniel 6) could very well have come after this final vision. His response to persecution/suffering should inform our response…God can, God will, but even if He doesn’t, He is still sovereign and actively involved in the events of my life and is working for my good and His glory. And just as prayer was an indispensable part of Daniel’s life, it should be of ours as well.

God’s faithfulness to deliver the fantastic four…His faithfulness to deliver His people throughout history … should cause God’s people to want to be faithful in the face of tribulation and oppression. The Daniel’s visions are given within a context of persecution…there was tremendous pressure for him to compromise and even abandon his faith. Daniel writes to persuade folks who are suffering persecution to hold fast their faith and endure because God will rescue them even through death by resurrection (many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake…to everlasting life). Like the fantastic four, we too are tempted to compromise and abandon our faith, but don’t do it. We are called to live out our faith in a hostile world no matter the cost, being available to be used by God to boldly, yet compassionately point those on our impact list to Jesus, knowing that good triumphs in the end. Don’t give up, don’t give in…Jesus wins.

Is your name written in the book? Only those whose name is written in the book will be rescued and resurrected to everlasting life. And the only way to have your name written in the book…trusting in Jesus to rescue you. Then you too, like Daniel, will receive your allotted inheritance in the eternal kingdom. If your name is not in the book, or if you’re not sure…if you don’t know the God that Daniel speaks of today, the God of heaven, the Creator and Sustainer of all that exists, the Revealer of Mysteries, the Rescuer of our souls, please don’t wait. Only those who have insight, whose names are in the book…who have trusted in Jesus for everlasting life will be a part of His eternal kingdom. The rest will spend an eternity apart from Him. Lack of understanding will be no excuse.

May God give us the courage and steadfastness of Daniel to face life in the fourth kingdom, and may we do it with an undying hope.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Daniel series entitled Reclaimed. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

My Grace Is Sufficient for You

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness…’” 2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV

As we come to the close of our reading in Paul’s letters to the church in Corinth, I cannot help but be drawn to the sufferings Paul experienced for the Gospel in 2 Corinthians 12.

Five times Paul received 39 lashes in ministering to the Jews. Many times a person would die during the punishment. Paul survived 5 times.

Paul was also beaten by the Gentiles with rods 3 times.

He was stoned by a mob in Lystra (see Acts 14) and left for dead.

The dangers on highways, seas and other travels were always a real part of his journeys.

Paul was also attacked within the churches verbally by false teachers.

It is hard to imagine the physical pain Paul must have felt, but the spiritual struggles of his ministry seem to have been an even greater burden.

Despite the pressures he felt from the churches he founded and the opposition that faced him everywhere he went, Paul pressed on.

How could he continue? What made him press on for the Gospel?

He believed the things he wrote. He understood and believed in the reality of heaven and eternity, the potency of the Gospel, and God’s mercy and grace.

For Paul, the reality of heaven was real. He knew his citizenship was eternal and in heaven.

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:20 ESV

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58

Paul understood the potency of the Gospel.

“For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.” ! Corinthians 4:20 ESV

“For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel.” 1 Corinthians 9:16 ESV

Finally, Paul understood the magnitude of God’s mercy and grace.

Paul was a blasphemer, persecutor and enemy of the followers of the way. Yet God granted Paul mercy and grace, calling him to a lifetime of service.

It was the love of Christ that enabled him to absorb the beatings, persecutions, imprisonments, and challenges of ministry.

Paul understood that in his weakness, God’s power was demonstrated.

This enables us to understand that our trials and sufferings actually qualify us to proclaim the Gospel and teach others about Jesus.

He uses our sufferings to demonstrate His sufficiency. God can use our afflictions to provide comfort to others.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness…’”

His power is made perfect in my weakness. Amen!

Until next time… keep reading!

Jim

Sources used for this blog: ESV Study Bible, Courson’s New Testament Application Commentary, Gospel Transformation Bible

God of All Comfort

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort…” 2 Corinthians 1:3 NASB

As we come now to the book of 2nd Corinthians, Paul addresses some of the things he previously addressed in 1st Corinthians, but also deals with a few new issues as well.

Think of 1st Corinthians as a call for believers to be unified with each other, while the focus of 2nd Corinthians is for the church in Corinth to be unified with Paul and his ministry.

In the same way, we should be unified as a church in ministry for the furtherance of the Gospel.

In 2nd Corinthians we find Paul’s thoughts on the Gospel ministry (Chapters 2-5), encouragements for holy living, (Chapters 6-7), and instructions about giving (Chapters 8-9).

One point Paul makes in our reading for today is that we can find genuine comfort in God as Paul did.

Paul knew a thing or two about suffering for the gospel, something we will cover in more detail next week, but here in 2nd Corinthians, Paul’s opponents are undermining his work in Corinth, claiming that Paul was not an Apostle – why?  Because he suffered too much!

I guess their thought was a real apostle would be spared some of the opposition Paul suffered at the hands of men.

Yet, Paul had learned the great lesson of suffering for the Gospel, his suffering highlights his dependence on Christ, as it points to Christ’s strength and not his own.

We are reminded that God comforts us so that we can comfort others.

I was reading through several passages in Matthew 5 earlier in the week – verses from Jesus’s teaching we call the Sermon on the Mount.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4 ESV

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:10 ESV

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:11-12 ESV

As Christians we share in the sufferings and comfort of others. But, we rely not on ourselves but on Him.

Paul found genuine comfort in God. We will too.

As we go through the difficult times in life, no matter what the storm or challenge we face, we find comfort in the Word of God, comfort in the prayers of those around us, and we find comfort in the examples of the saints that have gone before us.

Our God is a God of mercy and comfort, in Him we can rest.

Until next time… keep reading!

Jim

Reclaiming the Kingdom Part 2

Daniel 7.19-28

Why does God give Daniel this revelation? Although he lives through the first beast (Babylon) and into the time of the second beast (Medo-Persia), he would not be around to see the fulfillment of the majority of the prophecy. How would an ancient Israelite have received it? Remember that Daniel is writing during a time when Israel is under the rule of foreign powers. Folks have started to return to Jerusalem. The walls and the temple will soon be rebuilt, but they will still be under the rule of the nations. They would not know the world that their fathers had known. They would not see Israel fulfilling her Abrahamic destiny of being the blesser of the nations. Instead they would only know life under foreign occupation and rule. And Daniel writes somehow to encourage them…to encourage them not to give up or to give in because God wins.

But how would this be an encouragement to folks who had no hope of life returning to “normal”? Daniel gives us two perspectives of reality in this chapter: one earthly and one heavenly. From the earthly perspective, there is apparent chaos as the sea (picture of the nations) is stirred up and one kingdom after another arises only to be conquered by the next successive kingdom. And each kingdom will be opposed to God, so if you are one of the saints, it will look like you are on the losing side, especially during the time of the fourth beast. In Genesis 3.15 God says to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed…”

From the heavenly perspective, God is in complete control. The Ancient of Days is seated on His fiery throne. His sovereignty is unquestioned. The beasts may roam the earth, but they are subject to God. Their dominion is a delegated dominion. And there’s coming a time when heaven and earth will once again be reunited, the kingdoms of this world will be judged and an eternal kingdom will be set up. In the end, the saints’ victory will be manifest. History is moving toward a climax in which good triumphs over evil. And the book ends with the hope of the resurrection (12.13).

The hope of the ancient Israelite was resurrection (12.2-3). It wasn’t a comfortable family-life. It wasn’t a good job. It wasn’t even a return to Jerusalem. It was the resurrection where they would receive their share in the eternal kingdom, where they would walk its streets and serve its King. Daniel’s encouragement was to live life today as citizens of the eternal kingdom. If they focused on their present circumstances, it sure wouldn’t have looked like they were on the winning side. But if they looked beyond their circumstances, Daniel gave them glimpses of God winning – seeing Him praised and His sovereignty acknowledged by the most powerful men in the world (Nebuchadnezzar and Darius); and the boys’ willingness to face death in the fiery furnace and the lions’ den rather then compromise their faith.

Today we find ourselves under the dominion of the fourth beast. We are living in a world that devours and tramples, that overpowers and wears down the saints. We are living in a world that is venomously hostile not only toward God, but also toward His followers. A world in which violence is king…just look at the top rated video games, the top grossing movies, the sporting events we pay extra to see. Not unlike Ancient Rome. In Genesis 6, it was because of the violence of man that had greatly increased on the earth that God finally said, “Enough is enough” and sent the flood. Each successive kingdom has been more violent than the one before, and so we should expect to experience the trampling down and the devouring. We should expect to be attacked and persecuted.

Daniel’s encouragement to us is not to place our hope in the things of this world, the present earthly kingdom in which we find ourselves. Our hope is not in a better job with better benefits, or reconciled relationships, or the right education for my kids. It’s not the American Dream. Our hope is in the resurrection…where we will walk the streets of the eternal kingdom, where we will serve our King. Daniel’s encouragement to us is the same as was his encouragement to the ancient Israelites: live your life as a citizen of the eternal kingdom. Influence others by our uncompromising faith in God. To often we want to claim dual citizenship…living in both the earthly and heavenly kingdoms, hoping to enjoy the benefits of both. But we can only live in one of them…only one can claim our allegiance. Jesus said something about that… “No man can serve two masters for he will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” James writes, “Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance…” Be prepared to suffer. Persevere until the end. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. God wins.

I love the scene from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers where our heroes, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli come to the aid of King Theoden to defend Helm’s Deep. They’ve received word that a large army of Urai-hai, a beastly army created by the wicked wizard Saruman, is on the march. With a small band of defenders, the only hope of winning, maybe better, surviving, is the mighty fortifications of the fortress itself. Then the elves show up, and it seems that our heroes might have a fighting chance. But then the enemy pours into the valley and covers it like blanket. The battle begins and our heroes seem to be holding their own until the wall is breached by an unnatural explosion. The bad guys pour in. The good guys are overwhelmed. The hope they had placed in the wall and the elves was misplaced.

Theoden, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli are in the last fortified chamber with the Urai-hai crashing the door. Theoden, tempted to give up, remarks, “So much death. What can men do against such reckless hate?” I love Aragorn’s answer, “Ride out with me. Ride out with me and meet them.” Theoden, “For death and glory…” Then Gimli says, “The sun is rising…” “Foul deeds awake. Now for wrath. Now for ruin. Now for the red dawn.” The band rides out through the sea of Urai-hai just in time to see Gandolph and the riders of Rohan coming up over the ridge. They overwhelm the bad guys below and the day is saved.

Living life in the fourth kingdom many times feels like we are on the losing side, especially as Jesus followers. It feels like the enemy is crashing the door down looking to devour us. We are often tempted to give up or give in. But remember the earthly kingdoms are temporary. They are given dominion for a short period of time. The Son of man is coming to set up an eternal kingdom that will never fail or fade. The enemy has already been defeated, though we don’t see it fully yet. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Jesus wins.

If you are not a part of His eternal kingdom today, please don’t wait. Each kingdom fell in a moment of time. This one will too. And when that moment comes, it will be too late. You can become a citizen of the eternal kingdom by trusting in its King. By believing that Jesus came and lived a perfect life, died a sacrificial death and was raised again to life conquering both sin and death, the Bible says that you can become a citizen of the eternal kingdom. A son or daughter of the King. That you too would not have to give up or give in because Jesus wins!

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Daniel series entitled Reclaimed. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

The Fiery Furnace

Daniel 3

The most powerful man on earth is no match for the God of heaven…who is in control? God rescues the boys from the king’s arrogance and wrath, and the king in turn acknowledges the greatness of their God and promotes them within the kingdom…

God can save…God will save…but even if He doesn’t. This story hits the can and will, but what about the “but even if He doesn’t”? Would you still trust Him? There seems to be two pit falls to avoid…on the one side, making it about the power of your faith. In other words, if you believe enough or have enough people praying for you then you will be healed or rescued from your current circumstances or whatever. The contra is also thought to be true…if you are not healed then something’s failed in regards to faith. We end up putting faith in faith. This pit fall fails to recognize that God in His sovereignty may choose not to act according to our definition of what’s best. He’s still God and He’s still good.

On the other side, interpreting the “but even if He doesn’t” as His inability to heal or rescue or whatever. This pit fall fails to recognize God’s power to do the impossible.

One other option…He just doesn’t care. I hope that if you’ve been with us through the Genesis series, you know that’s not true. He’s been pursuing us from the time we rebelled against Him in the garden. He’s gone to incredible lengths to demonstrate His love for you. “For God so loved the world, He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Any one of these pitfalls can be disastrous to our walk. In the movie, God is not Dead, the professor makes the revealing statement that the most ardent atheists were once Christians who somehow disappointed by God. A sad commentary because it reveals that their god was different that Nebuchadnezzar…powerless, dependent on their whims and subject to their wills. That’s not the God of the Bible.

Hebrews 11, the hall of faith, paints a different picture. There are of course the folks who have accomplished the remarkable…closed the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, put foreign armies to flight, women received back their dead by resurrection. But then there are those who were persecuted, sawn in two, put to death with the sword, etc. dying in faith without having received the promises.

Peter, Paul and the rest of the apostles, as well as countless other saints throughout church history are testimonies to the “but even if He doesn’t”. In the book of Revelation, the hero is the martyr who does not love his life even unto death. And of course our greatest example is our Savior Himself who went to a cross. All trusted God and were unwavering in their faith, despite their current circumstances. Knowing the future of the earthly kingdoms, gave them the confidence to follow God under the rule of these earthly kings.

Jim Elliott famously said, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

A reminder that we are talking about life here on planet earth…life in the physical realm this side of eternity…life in a broken, fallen world where pain and suffering and death are a reality. But if we have trusted in Jesus, we’ve already been rescued and reclaimed. We are citizens of the eternal kingdom, sons and daughters of the King of the universe. Spiritually speaking then, our God can and will because He has…Jesus has already defeated sin and death, He has already crushed the head of the serpent. We long for the day when we see that fully played out, when heaven and earth are reunited, when faith becomes sight, when the Rock becomes the mountain that fills the earth, when all is on earth as it is in heaven.

So where are you today? Are you taking bold risks for God, trusting that He can and will save you? But even if He doesn’t, are you still willing to follow Him, knowing that He is working out His good purpose for you? Who is that Nebuchadnezzar in your life that is waiting to see whether or not God is real based on your faithfulness to Him in impossible circumstances?

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Daniel series entitled Reclaimed. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

The Waiting Game

Genesis 40

Once again we see Joseph doing the right thing and experiencing the “wrong” outcome. Why must he keep waiting? We know the LORD’s presence is with him, so why doesn’t He intervene? That brings up two very important questions…is God good? And can He be trusted?

The story of Genesis answers these two questions with a resounding “YES!” Is God good? He is Creator God who created a perfect world, and who is Sovereign over His creation. And even when we wrecked it, He is Redeemer God providing hope and the way of redemption through the Genesis 3.15 Rescuer, the Head-crushing Seed of the woman, Jesus. Can God be trusted? Over and over He has proved His faithfulness…executing judgment and providing the means of escape, blessing and cursing. Even when His people are faithless, He remains faithful.

But again the questions reveal more about us…our expectation of what life should be, our definition of what is good. Goes back to the garden. Tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We’ve been deciding what’s best from our own limited, warped perspective ever since. Generally our definition of good revolves around what gives us the most pleasure or helps us avoid the most pain. Our circumstances do not determine God’s presence, they are not an indication of His involvement. They don’t define His goodness. If we have trusted in Him, His presence is with us in both good and bad times, whether the news is favorable or disappointing, whether we make the team or not.

Like we said last week, suffering is the crucible, the furnace of God’s love. He uses it to shape and mold us into the people He saved us to be. A people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. Suffering can come from a number of different fronts…consequences of our own sin, results of another’s sin, or by-products of a broken world. One thing we know about suffering…it impacts us all. We are all going into a pit, in a pit or just coming out of a pit. And while suffering has the potential for great good…Paul says, “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, (our suffering,) knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint…” James says it this way, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (Notice the role of waiting in both.)…suffering can also produce bitterness. And we know folks like this, don’t we? Suffering has made them very un-fun to be around. What is suffering producing in you? Resentment or hope, fog and numbness or a redemptive edge.

One other thing I don’t want us to miss from this story…we are all the baker in this story. We are all guilty of treason against our Master, our Creator. We all deserve to die. But God…being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). Jesus, the One God promised way back in Genesis 3.15, the Rescuer and Redeemer and Restorer of His creation, hung on a tree in our place. He took our curse, so that we might be blessed. He took our sin and gave us His righteousness, so that we could be reconciled to God and become sons and daughters of the King of the Universe, so that we might become like the cupbearer restored to a right relationship with our Master. An incredible exchange available to each and every one of us by believing in Him.

So whatever pit you find yourself in today, I pray that you may know God’s presence with you and that your present suffering is making you more like Jesus.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Genesis series. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster